Our Town

When it came time to pick a town moniker, one little city nestled on the banks of the Rogue River experienced a bit of an identity crisis before settling on the obvious choice.

Rogue River still enjoys the self-imposed nickname of "Tree City USA," and the National Rooster Crowing Contest has been held there since 1953. Now boasting a population of about 2,100, the little town went by the name of Woodville from around 1876 until 1912 before incorporating and changing its name to reflect its riverside setting.

But even before this burg was Woodville, back when it wasn't much more than a popular place for northern Jackson County's early settlers to cross the Rogue River, it went by the name of Tailholt.

Crossing a deep, fast-moving river could be a life-threatening event. When a pioneer or prospector didn't have a wagon to cling to for safety, he did the next best thing — he grabbed onto his horse, mule or oxen's tail and hung on for dear life.

Better to risk a kick in the teeth than a probable drowning was the proverbial wisdom.

In 1961, when the state was building a new park in the area, the Mail Tribune suggested it be named Tailholt.

Oregon State Parks and Recreation officials, however, wanted a name that reflected the Rogue River and the park's "central location to all cities in the Rogue River Valley."

Tailholt was out, and Valley of the Rogue State Park was in.

Other Southern Oregon towns tried on various names before landing on their current handle.

Phoenix was once known as Gasburg, and also had a nickname of "Pike," according to local historian Jan Wright. Talent used to be Wagner Creek. Jacksonville was Table Rock City. And Ashland was formerly Ashland Mills, she said.

For information on Rogue River's early days, check out the Woodville Museum at 199 First St. Visitor hours are from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Mail can be sent to P.O. Box 1288, Rogue River OR 97537-1288. Its phone number is 541-582-3088.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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